Road Closed: GPS to the Rescue!
It was about 2:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon when we left Outback Steakhouse. It was still raining and we decided to head over to the Toyota Center, even though the game wasn’t going to start until 5 p.m. The doors were scheduled to open at 4 p.m. Considering the rain and potential traffic we would face if we waited to drive downtown later, arriving early seemed like the sane choice.
My trusty GPS unit navigated with voice directions as we travelled down the interstate to downtown Houston, switching lanes and highways as necessary. The rain wasn’t bad, neither was the traffic. I also observed that the roads in Houston appeared to be draining quite nicely. Not sixty seconds after I said that, I saw a feeder road flooded to my right. The rainwater was draining nicely, all right… right onto the feeder roads. I corrected myself and stated that the rain on the interstate was draining well. And, you guessed it, as soon as I said that a truck in front of me hit a large puddle of water that splashed onto my windshield, completely blinding me for about two seconds. It’s a good thing we were traveling straight. Otherwise, I’d be writing about how I repainted the highway concrete barrier with the left side of my car.
It took us about thirty minutes to reach downtown Houston. Other than getting blinded briefly from water that didn’t drain off the highway, so far the trip to downtown Houston was uneventful. My GPS unit announced that my exit was coming up on the left. We were making good time, and then I saw the orange cones and road sign ahead that indicated that our exit ramp was closed! Ugh! So, I took the next exit. After listening to my GPS tell me that it was recalculating my route to the Toyota Center and taking a couple of turns, it eventually directed me to make a U-turn towards downtown (legally, of course).
In Search of the Perfect Parking Spot
This was my first time driving in downtown Houston and solely depended on the outdated maps on my GPS unit to lead me to the Toyota Center, making sure I didn’t end up driving the wrong way on a one-way street (we only have two one-way streets where I live). To make matters worse, I needed to answer a nature call. We found the Toyota Center relatively easily, but we still needed to find a place to park. We arrived about an hour before the doors were going to open, so the paid parking lots were empty. However, none of them were manned. The one directly across from the entrance of the Toyota Center had one of those ticket machines that took bills. I waited patiently for a lady to get her parking pass. Two poles kept people from driving right up to the machine like an ATM, so the lady had to stand out in the rain while she attempted to insert her money into the machine. The machine just wouldn’t take her money. I and my bladder started to get impatient. So, I looked over to my right where I saw three open parking spots on the street. I remembered my friend mentioning that someone had told him that you didn’t have to feed the parking meters on the weekends. I drove around the block and found the perfect parking spot on the street catty-corner from the Toyota Center. The best case scenario was parking on the street so close to the arena would help us from having to deal with traffic after the hockey game.
In Search of a Restroom!
We walked in the rain as I struggled to get my stubborn umbrella open, which didn’t budge until we made it to the building. A lot of good that did me! We joined a small group of people taking refuge under an awning in front of one of the entrances to the building. We chatted with the other people there for a few minutes and then I asked if any of them knew where I could find a restroom. There was no way I was going to be able to wait forty-five minutes for the doors to open. Otherwise the rain getting me wet was going to be the least of my problems. One of the guys directed me to the Four Seasons Hotel a couple of blocks away. I thanked him, opened my umbrella, and started my hike to the hotel. As soon as I crossed the street, I noticed a Porta-Potty, which in normal circumstances I would avoid, but this was an emergency. Crap! It was padlocked! So, I continued my journey, which took longer than expected, because the entrance to the hotel was on the other side of the block it stood on. Nonetheless, I completed my mission and thirty minutes later I was back at the Toyota Center waiting with my friends for the doors to open. Here’s a view from where we stood while we waited:
The Doors Finally Open
Finally, at 4 p.m., the Toyota Center staff unlocked the doors to the entrance and started allowing people inside the arena. As soon as we made it inside, my party and I headed to the box office to claim our reserved tickets… and then my friend’s coworker immediately headed to the restroom. I guess he didn’t want to walk to the Four Seasons Hotel.
In my next post, I’ll conclude the apparent three-part blog post of my experience attending my first American Hockey League game, which is actually only the third time in my life attending a professional sports event. Feel free to share comments about my misadventures or to share similar experiences with attending a sports event for the first time. Cheers!